Japan Says Prime Minister Did Not Ask to Address US Congress

Japanese government officials are denying Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has asked to address a joint session of Congress during a planned visit to Washington next month. An influential U.S. congressman has said that if Mr. Koizumi wants speak before American lawmakers, he should first promise not to re-visit a controversial Japanese war shrine.

The annual visits by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a Tokyo war shrine have chilled Japan's relations with China and South Korea, which suffered abuse by the Japanese military before and during World War II. But until now, those visits have not been an issue in the United States.

On April 26, Congressman Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, raised the issue in a letter to speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert. Mr. Hyde wrote that if Mr. Koizumi wants to address a joint session of Congress next month, he should first pledge not to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine again this year.

The existence of the letter was confirmed to VOA News by the International Relations Committee staff, and the contents appeared in the Japanese newspaper, Asahi Shimbun.

According to the newspaper, Hyde, a World War II veteran, wrote that another visit by Mr. Koizumi to the war shrine would offend those Americans who remember the war.

He also said it would dishonor the chamber of Congress where, following the December 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. fleet in Hawaii, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a state of war.

But Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Shinzo Abe, says the problem with Hyde's objection is that Mr. Koizumi never asked to address Congress during his U.S. visit.

He says Mr. Koizumi has no plans to make a speech before Congress, and has not expressed any desire to do so. He adds that such criticism from an American lawmaker is rare, and that most U.S. congressmen appear to respect freedom of religion.

Yasukuni is a Shinto shrine that honors all of Japan's modern-era war dead. Because these include a handful of men convicted of war crimes after Japan's defeat in 1945, China and South Korea consider the visits by Mr. Koizumi to be an insult.

Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Tomohiko Taniguchi, says the stance of Hyde, a Republican Party congressman from Illinois, is not shared by the Republican president as far as Japan is aware.

"When President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi met before, they may have talked about this, but I do not think I have heard anything coming out of the Bush administration about this," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has also alluded to the issue of the visits during his current trip through Asia. In remarks in Seoul before his arrival here in Tokyo, he urged Japan, South Korea and China to resolve their differences.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs